UTSA Football vs. Middle Tennessee recap


Dustin Vickers/The Paisano

Zakhari Franklin runs out of bounds after securing a catch during the first half against MTSU. Franklin is off to a strong start this season with 22 catches for 346 yards and 3 TDs.

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

The UTSA Roadrunners (3-0, 1-0 C-USA), squared off against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-2, 0-1 C-USA) on Saturday night. Despite suffering a mistake-filled night on offense, the UTSA defense was more than up to the task, dominating all night long and helping lead the ‘Runners to their second consecutive 3-0 start to a season. 

The Blue Raiders got the ball to start the game, but immediately ran into a brick wall as the UTSA defense forced an immediate three and out that set the offense up with exceptional field position after a bad punt. Unfortunately, the UTSA offense could not capitalize as a holding call stalled the ensuing drive out and Hunter Duplessis missed a long 52-yard field goal. The UTSA defense forced a turnover on downs on the next Blue Raider possession when Trevor Harmanson dropped Middle Tennessee running back Amir Rasul in the backfield on 4th and inches. The UTSA offense was not able to take advantage, though, as shortly after crossing midfield, De’Corian Clark fumbled the ball away while trying to fight for extra yardage following a catch. The UTSA defense did their job, however, forcing a quick punt to hand the ball back to the offense. Gifted another chance, the offense finally got in rhythm as the ‘Runners marched down the field and took an early lead in the first quarter when Frank Harris hit Zakhari Franklin on a 33-yard touchdown pass. 

Early in the second quarter the ‘Runners briefly thought they had doubled their advantage on a Brendan Brady receiving touchdown on a wheel route, but the play was wiped out by a facemask penalty on the offensive line. This came back to haunt the ‘Runners as just two plays later Harris was picked off and the return took it all the way inside the UTSA 20. Asked to make another play, the UTSA defense held strong, as Corey Mayfield Jr. intercepted Middle Tennessee quarterback Bailey Hockman in the end zone to keep the Blue Raiders off the scoreboard. On the ensuing drive, the offense drove down the field, but eventually settled for a short Hunter Duplessis field goal to take a 10-0 lead into halftime. 

The UTSA offense came out hot to start the second half, as they marched 76 yards on 15 plays, finishing the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown pass by Harris to Joshua Cephus. Another quick Blue Raider punt gave the ‘Runners a chance to open up a big advantage and they quickly moved across midfield. However, the drive came to an end when Harris threw his second interception of the game on an underthrown ball to the end zone. The UTSA defense continued their stellar play, however, holding the Blue Raiders to two consecutive three and outs. A great punt return from Sheldon Jones set up the ‘Runners inside the Middle Tennessee 35 to start the fourth quarter, but they could not get any positive movement and Duplessis’ field goal attempt was blocked, keeping it a 17-0 game. On the ensuing drive though, the Roadrunner defense made the play of the game, when Trumane Bell II came on a blitz and stripped Blue Raider quarterback Chase Cunningham of the ball. Lorenzo Dantzler scooped up the loose ball and stepped into the end zone for a defensive touchdown. Another forced three and out brought the offense right back onto the field, but UTSA had to endure a scary moment when Harris took a shot while rolling out to his right and stayed down on the field. Harris eventually got back to his feet, but with the game firmly in hand, his night was apparently done. Another Duplessis field goal stretched the lead to 27-0 midway through the fourth quarter. 

The second-string defense took over with five minutes left in the game. Finally freed from the oppression of the ‘Runners defensive might, the Blue Raider offense got moving. A pair of blown coverages on consecutive drives saw the Blue Raiders score two garbage-time touchdowns, but a failed onside kick ended things and UTSA secured their first conference win of the season 27-13. 

It was an all-around dominant performance from the UTSA defense as they limited the Blue Raiders to just 199 yards of total offense and eight yards rushing. The front seven also had little trouble getting to the quarterback, registering five sacks as a unit. The UTSA offense had little issue moving the ball, accruing 452 yards of total offense, but the team suffered through some sloppy execution, committing three turnovers and two missed field goals. Sincere McCormick put up a workman-like 105 yards on 23 carries and Zakhari Franklin enjoyed another excellent evening, securing eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.

UTSA next heads onto the road on Saturday, Sept. 25, to take on the Memphis Tigers (3-0). The Tigers are fresh off of a win over SEC member Mississippi St. (2-1). Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.